Domestic Bliss - 20 Woodbine Street, Please
Darren Guy - Bass
John Henderson - Drums
Simon Morgan - Gtr & Shouting
Domestic Bliss formed in 1978 out of ‘total boredom & despair’ in leafy rural Warwickshire in the heart of the Midlands (if it is indeed possible to experience ‘despair’ in such an idyllic environ). Punk Rock had already caved in at its London core & it was now down to the provinces to pick up the broken pieces of a shattered ideal & run a bit further with them.
Domestic Bliss rose like a phoenix from the ashes of Obscene On TV (aka Damaged Rabbits - aka Body Stained Underpants) who’d achieved local notoriety with their live appearance at Norton Lindsay Youth Club Talent Show 1978 (where they’d proceeded to scare an already physically unstable audience of pensioners closer to an early doors grave with their ‘interpretations’ of various Punk Rock songs - 12XU, Teenage Kicks, Action Time Vision, Ex-Lion Tamer):
Brian Parsons (NL Youth Club Leader) - It was an absolute disgrace! I remember them hitting the stage - the noise was dreadful - an absolute cacophony! Simon was screaming something about a girl in a mag smoking a fag & I thought: ‘bloody hell - I’d better get these buggers off quick before I have to call the St John’s Ambulance Brigade’. I was really angry with them - they’d promised me they’d play a few Commodores numbers - & all we got was this Punk Rock rubbish.
Not everyone was as down on the scene as grumpy old Brian (aged 21). Mrs Dorothy Ramsden (aged 87) caused quite a stink at the end of the set - enraged that no Obscene On TV t-shirts were available for sale, she promptly trashed the White Elephant stall in a fit of pique. The smell of sherry was heavy in the air as the various group members were each individually banned from ever entering the village hall with instruments or microphones - ever again.
Thankfully Mrs Guy (mother of Darren) possessed a forgiving & understanding nature & soon allowed the by now monikered Domestic Bliss to begin rehearsing in earnest in the garage adjacent to her house. The classic Bliss line up was established when Olly Little decided that being in a shit group was unproductive - & that his mum was getting pissed off with giving him a lift from Shipston to Norton - & left. John Henderson decided he’d have a stab at drumming & Domestic Bliss were up & running.
The early part of 1978 was spent rehearsing & writing songs on a regular basis in the group’s new rehearsal rooms (the table tennis room at John’s house). The group were soon approached by local entrepreneur & biker, Tony Vince.
Tony had a vague idea that he was a ‘manager’ & that Domestic Bliss could be the next Shapes - & he wasn’t going to miss out on that kind of an opportunity. He also provided the group with lyrics - one of his earliest compositions, Vibrator On A Wall, even became an early stage favourite!
Domestic Bliss were soon gigging & attracting attention from the local Punks & Punkettes. The Leamington Spa/SuponA axis already had its fair share of Punking rockers (The Shapes, The Cravats, Flack Off, The Fragiles, School Meals), & Domestic Bliss fitted in just fine. Gigs at The Crown, The Red Lion, The Green Dragon, SuponA CFE (supporting The Cravats & Fashion) convinced local businessman Bob Barnes (Discovery Records) to part with some of his hard earned dosh & release a Domestic Bliss 45.
The group entered Johnny River’s Woodbine Street Recording studios in late 1978 for their first & final recording session:
Johnny Rivers - I remember that little twat Simon just kept turning his guitar up. I kept telling him it would bleed all over the drum mics & ruin the separation but he just kept saying it wasn’t fuzzy enough & turned it up some more. He had a Marshall 100w top & a 4 x 12 cab - & the live room was my basement - no bigger than, well, a basement, really. If you listen to the actual record the fucking drums sound like cardboard boxes. Wankers. See, you try to help & they just kick it back in your face.
The fraught sessions left Domestic Bliss with 3 songs (Child Battery, Life & Domestic Bliss) & Johnny Rivers safe in the knowledge that Simon Morgan would never enter his recording studio again. Bob Barnes was impressed with the results, however, & soon had the local pressing plant working overtime producing 7 slabs of Domestic Bliss vinyl. The cover artwork was especially commissioned by local artist of some renown, Mr Philip (nee Pip) Williams.
The (local) press went mad: extensive coverage in the Leamington Spa Courier, The Stratford upon Avon Herald & The Coventry Evening Telegraph pronounced the arrival of a major new force on the local Punk Rock scene. Domestic Bliss played a few more gigs in support of the single - once venturing as far as London Town where they supported Stress at some shit hole or other near Highbury.
By this stage Domestic Bliss were experiencing what most professional groups like to refer to as ‘artistic differences’. Darren wanted to be a bit more like The Cure, Simon wanted to be dark like Joy Division - & John wanted to improve his bowling action & marry Nicola Purslow. John Peel began playing the single on a regular basis (3 times) - & just when it seemed the world was to become the exclusive property of Domestic Bliss - they dissolved in a hail of acrimony & a haze of Alka Seltzer.
Johnny Forgotten recently tracked down Domestic Bliss frontman & lead shouter, Simon Morgan, to get the real deal on why any group would turn down a John Peel session & split up instead:
trakMARX - How did you lot get into Punk the first place?
Simon - All the usual suspects. Sex Pistols, Damned, Buzzcocks, Clash, Adverts, Eater, Slaughter & The Dogs, Wire - & that New Wave LP on Mercury - The Voidoids, The Ramones, New York Dolls, Patti’s Piss Factory - The Dead Boys & Sonic Reducer. It was the sheer excitement of the music - it took my breath away & severely got on the nerves of my peers - which was fucking brilliant!
I’d been expelled from school in early 1976 & for a while no other school would place me. My dad told me that while I was without a school I had to go & work labouring on building sites. I got paid a little, too - which helped me afford records & music papers (Sounds, mostly). There was definitely something in the air in 1976 - it was almost palpable - the country was living on the edge & it felt like the cracks in the pavements & roads could spread to the very fabric of society at any given moment.
By the time 1977 arrived - Punk Rock was the most natural thing in the world - I’d been well & truly sucked in.
trakMARX - Domestic Bliss were from the countryside, right So what’s all this bollocks about ‘total boredom & despair’?
Simon - Boredom isn’t restricted to blocks of council flats in inner city areas. Sometimes the confines of a rural idyll can be even more stifling due to the unrealistic expectations of its inhabitants & the absolute total lack of anything to do except set fire to hedges. I was clinically bored as a teenager - these days there’s probably a medical term for it - & a programme of treatments available to members of BUPA. I could tell Richey Manic a thing or two about despair!
trakMARX - Had any of you had any previous experience in groups before Domestic Bliss?
Simon - Darren had had extensive training in the art of stagecraft due to his dad’s involvement in WAGS Gang Show productions. Darren would often break into the crest of a wave without so much as a by your leave - or a lifejacket! Darren once appeared on Blue Peter in a woggle!
John just liked hitting things - he was a very good bowler & shit hot at table tennis. John’s particular area of expertise was sarcasm - he had plenty of previous experience of that art form!
I’d already been fired from my first group - The Lobsters (later to become Flack Off) - for being the ‘worst guitarist they’d ever heard’. It had ended in acrimony & Rod Goodwin (bass) stole my Gibson copy & began ringing my parents on a regular basis & swearing at them for hours (I remember the old man putting the phone down - muttering - then returning to make a call himself some 15 minutes later only to find Rod still ranting down the other end of the line). What that was all about, I really can’t remember. So I had had previous experience - of being shit!
trakMARX - Who were your musical influences?
Simon - Personally, I thought the Sex Pistols were Godlike genius. I had a massive love of Buzzcocks & the Ramones. Richard Hell was a total hero to me. I guess Punk Rock in general was my influence. By the time we’d begun messing about as Domestic Bliss, however, the darker strains of Post Punk were already beginning to fuck with the mix. The Cure, Joy Division, Metal Urbain, PIL, Magazine. Domestic Bliss went from slapstick 77 faux-Punk on one side of the set - to barely formed aRT.rock noizenikism on the other. I guess we were pretty confused.
trakMARX - Was there any implied significance to the name Domestic Bliss?
Simon - Yeah, I guess so. We all came from middle class backgrounds & there was a certain stifling element to all our collective upbringings (although John lost his mother early on & had a fantastic relationship with his liberal father, TC). If anything, Domestic Bliss was a comment on the irony of middle class values - Penelope Keith in The Good Life & all that. My mother was a dead ringer for Margo Leadbetter - & I just wanted to be mothered by Felicity Kendall! I suppose we just wanted to reflect that scene - as The Shapes did - I mean, we couldn’t go around banging on about class, poverty, intelligence & Irish parentage - could we
trakMARX - What was the local Punk scene like during those early days?
Simon - In 1977 when I first began to escape the confines of our village there were about 10 Punks in L/Spa in about 7 in SuponA. I sided toward the SuponA crowd - due being at school in SuponA. Things took a while to get off the ground in a remotely organised way - all I can remember is Punk Discos at The One Elm, Shapes gigs - & John Peel & X-Ray Spex at SuponA CFE. Just to put the record straight - the 7 SuponA Punx did not include a certain drummer who shall remain nameless who was still a fully paid up Munchkin at the time!
There was a bit of shit thrown our way - John Archer & Mark Shorten (ex-Fragiles) were big enemies of ours at the time. I remember them slagging us off in Leamington Love Letter (fanzine) saying we were shit & that I was a twat. Today John is a martial arts expert & a very good mate - that’s how I’d like it to stay. Mark is probably still the rich kid tosser he was then - for all I know!
trakMARX - How did you get involved with Tony Vince?
Simon - Ah, Tony Vince. The Bernie Rhodes of Bearly. Tony was a biker at heart - he was a friend of the group who just fancied getting involved, really. He was a big dude - one you wouldn’t want to argue with - maybe he gave us a sense of being legitimate. Maybe we were just flattered anyone took us seriously. Maybe we were just frightened of him. In the end we shat on him. Cunts.
trakMARX - Is it true one of his girlfriends actually became a lesbian after going out him?
Simon - You’re going to get me in trouble with that one - lets just say it is true - but leave the names & details blank.
trakMARX - Apart from the released stuff - what made up the bulk of your set?
Simon - We had about 12 tunes in all - Essential To Trivia, Vibrator On A Wall, Child Battery, Life, Domestic Bliss, You Gotta Be A Good Boy (If You Ever Want To Get To Heaven - & a further 6 that slip my mind right now - & a superb cover of The Theme To Rupert The Bear (including a painful gtr solo) that always got the crowds smiling.
trakMARX - How did you get involved with Bob Barnes?
Simon - I worked for Bob in Discovery Records in SuponA - I blagged it - convinced him we could be bigger than Mott The Hoople. He fell for it. We weren’t.
trakMARX - What was it like working with the man who made Ghost Town for The Specials?
Simon - Shit. He kept telling us to turn everything down & that you couldn’t record guitars properly at that volume. Johnny was also a bit gay & we were all fairly homophobic little twats back then (you live & learn) - scared (scarred) for life by David Bowie! I remember being frightened - but overall I remember him thinking we were total shite - & I hated him for that (though he did do a lovely job re-mastering the tapes 20 years later - the drums now sound like mic-ed up cardboard boxes)!
trakMARX - How many copies did the single sell?
Simon - About 750 copies.
trakMARX - How does it fair on the collector’s market today?
Simon - It sells for about £65 on the UK market. We have been offered silly money from Japanese people & various Italians but the simple truth is we don’t know what happened to the unsold 250 copies. Wish we did. We could have finally made some money out of it all. Such is life.
trakMARX - How does that make you feel?
Simon - I’d rather have a single to my name that actually meant something than any number of vacuous chart hits - if that’s what you mean. We did it in the spirit it was meant to be done in - & regardless of what small potatoes it was in the grand scheme of things - I’ll always be proud to have been there when it nearly mattered.
trakMARX - You must have been made up with the John Peel airplay?
Simon - Very pleased, though to be honest, we all hated the record the moment we’d made it. It took 20 odd years for me to get to like it. Peely is an institution - we’re collectively proud to have been a part of it - always will be.
trakMARX - Is it true you turned down a session on his show so you could go to Paris with your girlfriend?
Simon - No. Just another part of the myth. I did go Paris with my girlfriend - but the group had split by then. John Peel wouldn’t have offered us a session with his shrink.
trakMARX - I know it’s still painful - but talk us through the break up of Domestic Bliss.
Simon - We just got bored. We hated the record. We all felt the group was shit, basically. We drafted in Chris Jennings from The Fragiles on vocals & I concentrated (not very hard) on the gtr. We played a few gigs with the nascent Varukers - & briefly decided we weren’t quite that bad after all - but the fun had gone out of it & been replaced with pretence. In the end, Chris & I decided we could do better on our own - & some time later formed The Suspects as a means to fund our heroin habits.
trakMARX - What happened after the group split up?
Simon - Darren & I reconvened as Flight 19. We wanted to be Killing Joke but were about as frightening as Doctor Who. In the end Darren couldn’t be bothered with me & Chris, me & Chris shat on Rob & Mitch - & then formed The Suspects with John Archer. The Suspects were a smack group - like the Heartbreakers but without the tunes. I eventually joined The Ramrods. The Ramrods were refugees from Coventry’s Squad & should have been massive - I played bass but was never really that convincing - so I quit to form The Hop. The Hop were my biggest shot - but by then it was too late - the doors were shut again - & there were literally hundreds of shit groups in every county of the UK. Countless other loser combos came & went. I got into hip-hop & freelance journalism. I had a failed crack a being a pop-star (after winning the Radio 1 New Band of the year towards the end of the 80s & working with Bananarama’s Manager - can I have my money back now, Hillary). Got a job. Got a life. Started writing fanzines. That just about brings you up to date.
trakMARX - What are the other members of the group up to these days?
Simon - Darren is big in advertising & lives in London & Northampton - he has a long-term partner & still plays & sings for fun. John lives on the south coast with his wife & kids & works in the construction industry - he has never hit a drum skin in anger since Domestic Bliss.
trakMARX - If you could do it all again - would you change anything?
Simon - Yes. I’d learn how to sing, shout less, practise gtr more, write some decent songs & try a whole lot harder not to be a twat.
Johnny Forgotten - tMx13 - 01/04